A string of illicit chemical discharges in Carroll County has prompted the county to increase its efforts to inform the public of the damage such chemicals can cause to Carroll's waterways and the Chesapeake Bay.
From 2010 to 2014, 13 of Carroll's 17 reported illicit discharges were associated with commercial, industrial and construction businesses, according to the county's Environmental Advisory Council.
Any time a person allows contaminants — regardless of how small or large the amount is — to flow into a drainage system or body of water, it is a violation and constitutes an illicit discharge, said Karen Leatherwood, a member of the Environmental Advisory Council.
The majority of the reported discharges related to businesses washing their fleet vehicles without ensuring the detergents did not reach a storm drain, said Frank Vleck, another member of the Environmental Advisory Council.
Carroll County has a phone hotline for people wishing to report violations. People can also report violations to the Maryland Department of the Environment or the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Information about such notifications is then sent to the county, which keeps track of it, she said.
The Environmental Advisory Council is a volunteer organization established in 2004 by the Carroll County Board of Commissioners and is responsible for advising the commissioners on issues of environmental concern.
As part of the county's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System's Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System permit, the county is required to conduct public outreach to inform businesses about the need for permits and pollution prevention.
"Public education is one of our major roles, and we are hoping this event will raise awareness as to how these permit requirements apply to local businesses," Vleck said. "We want to teach them how to prevent harmful discharges and use best management practices to avoid state and federal enforcement."
The Environmental Advisory Council is planning an informational workshop in October geared toward businesses that already hold National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits, including those that are at risk of state sanctions.
Under National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System regulations, all facilities which discharge pollutants from any point source into waters of the United States are required to obtain permits.
The workshop will be a half-day event at Carroll Community College, and the Environmental Advisory Council members intend to challenge participating businesses to take a good steward approach to their stormwater management practices, Vleck said.
"Basically, if [businesses] are proactive and have a plan, more times than not they will be able to avoid problems down the road," he said.
The Environmental Advisory Council is also planning a similar workshop for the general public sometime in 2016, Vleck said. Environmental Advisory Council members thought they should first focus on reaching out to businesses because the majority of the reported discharges came from the business community, he said.
The general workshop in 2016 is expected to focus on what homeowners can do to prevent contaminants, especially fertilizers, from seeping into local waterways, he said.
"Basically, what not to do with your lawn," Vleck said, adding, "These are simple, common sense measures which a lot of times go over people's heads, but a few simple measures can save a lot of headaches in the long-term."